Advocates call for transit improvements in wake of MBTA issues

A coalition of public transit advocates on Thursday called on state officials to improve MBTA safety and funding in the wake of recent high-profile issues including a Green Line crash, a Red Line derailment, and the death of a man who fell through a rusted-out staircase near a T stop.

“Our hearts go out to the people affected by the recent safety issues,” said Collique Williams, an organizer with Community Labor United, one of the groups that compose the Transit Is Essential coalition, during a briefing Thursday morning outside the State House.

“We all should be able to use the public infrastructure and carry out our jobs without facing the dangers that too many people have experienced in recent weeks,” Williams said. “These disasters are not accidents. They are symptoms of the system that has been underfunded for too long.”

Williams said it’s “unjust and unstable” to rely heavily on fare revenue to fund mass transit.

“Instead, we need robust, fair and sustainable sources of revenue for transit,” Williams said. “This is not only possible, it is necessary to achieve a safe and reliable transit system. To get there, we need voters to vote yes on the Fair Share Amendment in 2022. We need legislators to pass new, fair, and sustainable revenue sources, including restoring the corporate income tax to pre-2009 levels.”

The Fair Share Amendment would impose a 4 percent surtax on personal income above $1 million. Proponents say the change could generate roughly $2 billion in new annual revenue for education and transportation.

“We are here to build back trust,” said Stacy Thompson, executive director of the LivableStreets Alliance, at the briefing, adding that the coalition needs resources, support, and “governance” in its fight for better public transit.c

The T said in a statement Thursday afternoon that the agency remains committed to safety.

“The MBTA’s top priority is ensuring the safety and reliability of the system and it continues to invest billions of dollars on major infrastructure projects and procurements of new vehicles,” the T said. “After a record-breaking $1.92 billion spent in Fiscal Year 2021, the MBTA expects to exceed $2 billion in capital spending in Fiscal Year 2022. The MBTA has increased capital spending every year since the winter of 2015 to help make transit services and infrastructure more reliable.

Thompson said during the advocates’ briefing that it’s “entirely within” Governor Charlie Baker’s ability to “appoint a new [MBTA supervisory] board and to do it now. ... He must take action.”

The board Thompson referred to is the seven-person panel that Baker and lawmakers created in July to oversee the MBTA after its former oversight board disbanded. Transit advocates have anxiously awaited the board selections by Baker, who directly appoints five of them.

A Baker spokesperson said last week that the “administration is in the process of finalizing appointments and will have an update soon.”

Thompson covered other priorities during Thursday’s briefing as well.

“We want to remind the Legislature that in 2019, they agreed with us that we are underfunding our transit system and our transportation system statewide,” Thompson said. “Those needs haven’t gone away. But they have the financing tools, they have the policy mechanisms to fund the operations and long-term investments in the T. They just need to get back to work and get it done.”

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, a staunch transit and environmental advocate, also addressed reporters at the briefing.

“The importance of having a reliable, effective, modern [transit] system impacts all of us,” Curtatone said.

The briefing followed recent issues on the T, including a Red Line car that derailed at Broadway station Tuesday and hit the platform, upending commutes and forcing 47 passengers to exit the train. A spokesman for the T said Thursday via e-mail that the cause of the derailment remains under investigation.

On Sunday, an ascending escalator at the Back Bay station suddenly reversed, causing a pile-up that sent nine to the hospital. And earlier this month, Boston University professor David Jones fell to his death through a rusted, closed-off staircase near the JFK/UMass T station in Dorchester.

Baker, a Republican, addressed the T issues with reporters Wednesday following an unrelated event in Framingham.

“The MBTA is safe. But it is old,” Baker said, while acknowledging that the system needs work.

“I think there have been eight derailments in the past 24 months. That’s eight too many,” Baker said.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.